DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid- to Late February

 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Valentine’s Day Special: Alligator Feet – Queens County

On Feb. 14, ECO Jeff Johnston received a call from a New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspector regarding six alligator feet found in a walk-in freezer during a restaurant inspection in Queens County. In New York, it is unlawful to possess and offer for sale alligators or their parts without a valid permit from DEC. ECO Johnston and ECO Ryan Kelley responded to the restaurant, which was shut down by the inspector for unsanitary conditions. After verifying the restaurant did not hold a valid permit to possess and sell alligator parts, the alligator feet were seized as evidence and three NYC summonses were issued for illegal commercialization of wildlife, possessing alligator parts, and offering alligator parts for sale without a permit. All three summonses are pending prosecution in Queens County Criminal Court.

 

Large garbage bag with severed alligator feet inside
Seized alligator feet

 

Endangered Species Protection – Livingston County

Region 8 ECOs recently conducted a unique detail in an effort to protect an endangered species while assisting local landowners with traffic and public safety issues. For years, short-eared owls have been using a Livingston County neighborhood as winter feeding grounds. The owls are easily photographed as they fly low to the ground in this picturesque area, hunting for rodents. Word spread on social media, and members of the public began showing up, parking on the road, and setting up camera tripods. This year, ECOs received a complaint that someone had launched a drone to pursue the owls in an attempt to capture video. The increased traffic has also caused headaches for local residents. ECOs have spent time in the area over the last few weeks, speaking with numerous bird enthusiasts and educating them on the laws protecting endangered and threatened species. ECOs have also attempted to mediate the parking, traffic, and trespassing issues. Through this outreach, the officers are hopeful the owls will remain undisturbed and continue to winter in this unique area.

 

Owl sitting on a fence post in a field.
Short-eared owl perched on a Livingston County fencepost;
photo courtesy of New York State Police Captain Gallivan

 

Police Snowmobile Training – Oswego County

During the week of Feb. 18 to 22, DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) instructors from Regions 4, 5, and 6 conducted two Basic Snowmobile Operator Courses at the DLE training academy in Pulaski. The course was attended by students from the New York State Police, Pulaski Police Department, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Albany County Sheriff’s Office, Village of Phoenix Police Department, and DLE members from across the state. Twenty-eight officers completed the training that focused on the skills needed to safely operate police snowmobiles in tough terrain.

 

Three snow mobiles with various law enforcement lined up behind them.
Instructors and students at DLE police snowmobile training

 

Lake George Winter Carnival Enforcement – Warren County

Throughout February, ECOs from Warren, Washington, Saratoga, and Essex counties patrolled the Lake George Winter Carnival, an annual event that attracts thousands to Lake George Village for a wide range of motorized and non-motorized activities both on and off the lake. During day and evening shifts, ECOs dealt with unsafe operation of recreational vehicles, snowmobile accidents, and vehicles that sunk into the lake. ECOs conducted snowmobile speed enforcement on the trail systems and set up checkpoints to deter intoxicated snowmobiling. The officers issued numerous tickets during the carnival for a variety of offenses.

 

ECO standing near snowmobile while holding speed radar gun pointed in front of him
ECO Alan Brassard conducting snowmobile speed enforcement

 

Armored Car in a Bad Spot – Albany County


On Feb. 22, Sgt. Taryn Tomasik assisted a New York State Police unit with a disabled armored truck on I-787 in Albany. A GPS unit attached to the truck’s engine had come loose, preventing the motor from running and causing rush hour traffic backups. Quick thinking led Sgt. Tomasik to fashion a rope out of medical tape from her first aid bag, temporarily securing the GPS unit to the engine. This allowed the truck to start, deliver its load, and alleviate traffic.

 

ECO vehicle behind an armored car that is pulled over on the side of the highway
Broken down armored car on I-787

 

Burning Down the House – Chautauqua County

On Feb. 26, ECO Jerry Kinney responded to a complaint of an illegal open fire in the town of Poland. ECO Kinney arrived to find that an entire house had been demolished and was being burned to the ground. There were two large piles of debris burning on site, including drywall, roofing shingles, metal, and insulation. Due to the size of the fires, the Kennedy Fire Department responded to put the flames down. ECO Kinney ticketed the owner of the property for illegal disposal of solid waste and open burning of prohibited material.

 

Fire truck parked in front of smoldering debris of former house
Kennedy Fire Department working to extinguish illegally burned house

 

Tangled Up in Twine – Queens County


On Feb. 27, ECOs Ryan Kelley and Jacob Jankowski were on patrol in Far Rockaway in Queens County when they noticed a seagull walking through the grass in the sand dunes. The bird appeared to be limping. Looking through binoculars, the officers could see that the bird’s left wing was entangled in a ball of fishing line. The ECOs captured the bird and removed the fishing line, but the bird was unable to fly away. The ECOs transported it to a wildlife rehabilitator, where the bird was treated for dehydration and malnutrition and made a rapid recovery.

 

ECO on sandy road holding injured seagull under the wings
ECO Kelley with untangled seagull